Belfast court jails Chinese cannabis grower 'sergeants'
Published: 4th Dec 2009 15:53:05
Six Chinese "sergeants" in a major cannabis growing operation have been jailed for three years each.
Because of the time they have spent on remand awaiting trial, all but one of them will be freed within days.
Antrim Crown Court heard that police raids on two homes in the town in June 2008 led officers to a network of 14 other properties in Northern Ireland.
The three men and three women were described as above those growing the cannabis, but were not "commanders".
Houses used for growing cannabis were found throughout Northern Ireland after the raid, from Londonderry in the north to Clougher in the west and Kilkeel in the south.
One of the biggest sites was uncovered was a warehouse in Ahoghill, which together with the other cannabis growing sites was capable of producing a harvest worth between £2m to £3m.
The court also heard that when police raided the houses at Grangiers Mill and Alexander Park in Antrim, they also recovered almost £155,000 in sterling and euros, in addition to a number of bogus identification documents.
Prosecution said while they were not "the commanders in chief ... they were facilitators of that operation".
The six people jailed for three years for conspiring to produce the Class C drug were: Margaret Yin Ting Tsui, 33, Kingsway Court, Liverpool, You Yen Chen, 29, Graingers Mill, Antrim, Yu Long Gao, 36, Charlesville Road, Birmingham, Ting Meng Xu, 23, no fixed abode, Mei Xiao Yu, 23, Rice Lane Liverpool and Huijun Tang, 35, of Brook Hall Avenue, Belfast.
Tsui was given a concurrent sentence of six months for having £3,000 in criminal proceeds: Chen was given 12 months concurrent for having £14,000 in criminal proceeds, as was Gao and Xu for having a total of £20,350 in criminal proceeds.
They also receiving concurrent six-month terms for having fake identification documents.
Yu was given a concurrent 12 month sentence for having a total of £62,000, as was Huijun for having £38,000, who was also given a concurrent six months for having a false international driving licence in his own name.
Judge Gemma Loughran told the six, who all pleaded guilty, that they had been involved in a "very sophisticated system for the production of a very large quantity of cannabis".
The judge told them while their roles were not minor, it was just one more rung up from that and that there was little to distinguish between the roles each of them played.
However, she described them as "vulnerable individuals who were subject to the manipulations of much more sinister and shrewd people".
The judge concluded by saying that a decision on whether they be deported following their release was not a matter for the court, but for the Borders Agency".
Police described the operation by officers from the Organised Crime Branch as a painstaking intelligence led operation, and one of the most successful in recent history.
Since early 2008, 104 suspects had been arrested, 84 of whom were charged with offences, and cannabis worth £17m seized.
Detective Inspector Peter Moore said the operation had a significant impact on organised crime gangs, originating from South East Asia
"Despite these successes police have uncovered a number of other cannabis factories in various parts of Northern Ireland in recent months which shows that the threat still remains," he said.
"Criminal gangs continue to rent property from the private sector to use as bases for these factories and we would ask landlords to check the details of prospective tenants. If they are in any doubt they should contact their local police."
Harvard CitationBBC News, 2009. Belfast court jails Chinese cannabis grower 'sergeants'. [Online] (Updated 04 Dec 2009)
Available at: http://www.ukwirednews.com/news.php/740-Belfast-court-jails-Chinese-cannabis-grower-sergeants [Accessed 20th May 2013]
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